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Best machete? Your opinions, please.

Discussion in 'Commercial Tree Care and Climbing' started by Sylvatica, Jan 9, 2007.

  1. Sylvatica

    Sylvatica ArboristSite Operative

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    Need your opinion on the best machete out there. I'm looking for quality, if such a thing is available today in a machete.

    I don't want any more throw away cheapies.

    We need a few, I'm going to need +/- 16-18" blade, and maybe +/- 20-22" blade.

    What do you think?

    Thanks.
     
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  2. Grace Tree

    Grace Tree Impossible Access

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  3. Bermie

    Bermie Addicted to ArboristSite

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    Hi,
    Machetes are like a third hand out here, I recommend one that has a 'belly' in the blade up towards the tip, not the straight bladed type. The belly gives more weight toward the tip so you don't have to expend as much energy to swing it as the other kind. Get the best quality steel you can find and keep it SHARP. I think ours are imported from the UK.
    I'll post a pic of mine tomorrow.
    This is a change in conversation from chainsaws!!
     
  4. computeruser

    computeruser Addicted to ArboristSite

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    The ones from Cold Steel are very good. And fairly inexpensive, too, so you can try out a few styles to find the one(s) that best meet your needs and not be out a fortune. The edge, from the factory, is good enough for hacking away at stuff but the steel is good enough that you can put a fine edge on it if you wish. Their steel is also very forgiving when you accidentally hit hard objects - mild denting of the edge that can be peened out and resharpened, and no irreparable chipping like you see with the Chinese cheapies.

    I've been very pleased with the Bolo-style for general purpose use.
     
  5. Fumbler

    Fumbler ArboristSite Operative

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    What are you planning on cutting?

    I've used three different machetes a lot.

    One is an 18" US Army issued machete that I stole from my dad.
    It's made by Ontario (the same people who make knives and bayonets for the military).
    It's made of 1095 steel and holds an edge pretty well. I like this one the most for clearing light brush. It's short, handy, and doesn't flex too much yet isn't brittle.
    The downside is the 1095 rusts easily. I keep it coated with a light layer of grease. Also the handle is slippery when wet.

    I have a Barteaux 24" machete in my work truck. This thing is a beast.
    The steel (I don't know what kind) is thick and heavy. It is pretty rust resistant. For clearing light brush it'll wear you out faster than the Ontario. It'll cut small trees almost as well as a hatchet.
    The tanto profile is a little strange, but it doesn't take away from its cutting ability...it's actually easier to sharpen because you have two straight edges instead of a curved one. It's got a textured D handle making it much easier to keep a hold on. I suspect the handle will be more durable than most machetes because it's injection molded onto the blade. My very old Ontario has a crack in one handle slabs at a rivet.

    The third is your average $8 POS with an 18" blade. I don't remember the make, but it's very thin steel with riveted plastic handles. The blade edge simply rolls over when you hit a hard piece of wood.

    Some comments about machetes...
    -Almost every machete I've seen or used that was owned by someone else sucked at cutting. This is an owner issue. If you regularly sharpen your tools to the correct edge angle then most any machete will cut decently.
    -Also, almost all machetes, cheap or high dollar, come from the factory with a crappy edge. Get yourself a mill file and file the edge thinner. It works wonders.
    -I find that longer machetes are often too combersome unless you have room to whack away or you're cutting nasty briars that you don't want to get near.

    Do you really need a machete? I prefer gas trimmers with brush blades. If it's larger stuff then hatches can be more efficient (or better yet chainsaws :laugh: )

    Edited to add:
    I have used bolos and kukuris. These are real nice for cutting saplings and thicker brush fast. However, I think they suck at light stuff because they're heavier.
     
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2007
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  6. Sylvatica

    Sylvatica ArboristSite Operative

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    You guys are giving me some good options.

    Yes, I need, and regularly use a machete for the control of invasive vines like Celastrus without carrying the saw everywhere. Also for quick clearing of brushy junk from around the base of the trees I'm working on.

    I use one to clear poison ivy from trunks before I put my saw into them, thus avoiding flinging the sap of death on me. There is a designated "toxic machete."

    I use a sharp machete to make slashes and frills into which herbicide is inserted, when I use that method of control for invasive woodies.

    As an arborist, I do know the value and importance of sharp tools. I'm actually quite particular about all of my edged tools in that regard. So, for this next machete purchase, I don't want to automatically buy another POS just because its convenient. Keep 'em coming, I'm going to look into all of them.
     
  7. Fumbler

    Fumbler ArboristSite Operative

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    Good idea on the toxic machete.

    I looked at a tract of timber today. Nice large pines, but every freakin one of them had hairy vines.:blob6:
    I've gotta be the most allergic forester ever.

    You'd probably appreciate the quality of a Barteaux.
    I'd go with the 18". The orange handle sure is helpful when you set it down in the woods to empty your bladder.
     
  8. SRT-Tech

    SRT-Tech AboristSite Guru

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    I'd take a machete ANYDAY over a saw, brushsaw, or axe for clearing undergrowth and saplings. No fuel, no backpain, no noise, no weight, and very effective.

    Got about 15 years of trail clearing under my belt and the machete has consistenly been faster and more effective than any other tool i have used.

    Before my collection of blades got jacked, i had many....here is some reviews:

    - Generic machetes:
    cheap ($), durable, easy to sharpen, a bit thin, crappy handles, excells at anything less than an 1". Can chop all day without fatigue.

    - Cold Steel Bolo:
    not so cheap ($), very durable, easy to sharpen, thicker steel, holds edge well, excellent handle, even when wet. Weight forward design assists in cleaving saplings. A bit tiring at end of day.

    - Cold Steel HEAVY:
    ok pricing $. easy to sharpen, THICK steel, holds edge very well, excellent handle, even when wet, can hack thru 2" saplings no prob in one slice, up to 10" trees with effort. Tired at end of day, sore wrists.

    - Cold Steel Kukri:
    decent pricing$, standard thickess, holds edge very well, excellent handle even when wet, easy to sharpen, bent blade design makes cutting effortless, can slice thru 2" saplings no prob. No fatigue after using. One of my favorites

    Ontario CT1 - Traditional Cutlass machete: decent pricing, excellent edge retention, ok handle, best used with thin leather glove, easy to sharpen, slices thru 2" saplings no prob. No fatigue after use, another favorite.

    Becker combat bowie:
    not quite a machete, but a formidable tool. not cheap. easy to sharpen, retains edge, best for small saplings, not clearing land. no fatigue after use.

    and one of the best (in my opinion) is the standard sugar cane machete from Southern America, made with 1050 medium to high grade carbon steel. Has some flexibility, easy to sharpen, holds edge all day, and will not shatter like many newer machetes.
     
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2007
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  9. treeseer

    treeseer Advocatus Pro Arbora

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    Can you use a machete on vines that are attached to trunks? I've seen some nasty collateral damage from accidents.

    I'm glad you started this thread. I have a machete but never learned to use it well, but after reading this, using a chainsaw to slash little stuff is starting to look like using an AK-47 on a mosquito.
     
  10. Monkeyhanger

    Monkeyhanger AboristSite Guru

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    Hi,

    the best working machetes are made by Martindale (used the world over for cutting sugar cane etc.). They are carbon steel and easy to sharpen. I use the No. 2 (golok), which is also the standard issue "blade" in the British Army, for the tougher cutting. It's quite nose heavy and has a good size for general work. Martindale also make lots of other types of machete if you prefer longer, thinner or other shaped blades.

    http://www.ralphmartindale.co.uk/ralphmartindale/europe1.html

    If you search a bit you can find lots of tests of machetes, goloks and co. on the web.

    Bye
     
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2007
  11. Bermie

    Bermie Addicted to ArboristSite

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    Yes! These are the ones we get here. I think the pattern 30 is the one I have. They last forever, the only reason I've ever seen one ditched was because it was finally filed to a rapier and got too small!!

    Machetes are used here for everything from pruning hedges (not good) to clearing scrub, cleaning palms, chopping stuff to fit in the truck. The Portuguese landscapers here are practicaly born with one and anyone in the biz learns how to use one real soon!
     
  12. Ed*L

    Ed*L AboristSite Guru

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    I'll throw up another for the US Army issue Ontario. Readily available at any surplus store. Seems to me they cost about $20.00.
    They also make a model with saw teeth on the top of the blade. (I haven't used one)

    Ed
     
  13. Blinky

    Blinky ArboristSite Operative

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    Last time I bought a machete I picked one made in El Salvador... the most de-forested nation on the planet, I figured it had to be good.

    Honestly, the carbon steel suggestion is excellent, so is the 'belly forward' one. When it come to edges, you have to be able to sharpen and carbon steel is the way to go.

    I don't care for closed handles, had a brier get stuck in my glove once and on the next swing the bottom of the handle drove it deep into my knuckle.

    If you really want the best machete for clearing vines and brush... don't get a machete, get a lightweight ditch/bank axe like this one. Make sure its the 3 hole version, not the four hole which is heavier. Keep an edge on it and it goes through brush like it was warm butter, doubles as a light wood axe in a pinch too.

    While I was looking for a link I found this little tool which looks kind of interesting too.
     
  14. Bermie

    Bermie Addicted to ArboristSite

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    Martindale machete

    Ok, here is a picture of one of my Martindale machetes.
    This one is old and got left out in the bushes (oops) so the wooden handle rotted, but the steel is in fine shape, note the 'belly' towards the tip.
    We keep it for scrub bashing around the house.
    Used it today!
     
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2007
  15. Fireaxman

    Fireaxman AboristSite Guru

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    If you are intent on a Machete, I second Small Wood's vote for the Wodsman's Pal. I have several traditional machetes, but when someone gave me the Pal the rest of the Machetes were relegated to splitting fat pine for kindling, or riding around in the back of the Jeep "In Case" I needed something and the Pal was at home in the shed.

    But for clearing vines and poison ivy I went to a big pair of lopping shears for 3 reasons. (1) Vines, especially in mid air, are so flexible they can be hard to cut with a strike tool. This also holds true for very small diameter brush. (2) I can nip the poison ivy off the bark of an ornamental without damaging the underlying bark of the host plant and (3) strike tools often leave a spear point. Its easier to make a flush cut with lopping shears. They come in an assortment of quality and sizes according to what you need, but the "Forester" heavy duty bypass brush cutters (available from Forestry Suppliers Inc.) cut up to 2" diameter limbs, and can also be used to de-horn cattle.

    Now, if you have a LOT of it to do, get a Stihl FS 130R and put a saw blade on it.
     
  16. Sprig

    Sprig Addicted to ArboristSite

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    The Famous Collins

    If you hunt around in second hand shops and flea markets you may come across an old Collins (Collins Axe, Adz, and Machete Company, Conn.), they are a great and well made tool imo and regarded by many to be the best in the world. My first I had for over 20 years, a belly model with a flat (square?) end (20's-30's?), it had an oak handle and held an edge very well, excellent balance, got much use out of it but alas it mistappeared in one of my moves around 15yrs ago. Last year I found one rusting away in a friends barn and he gave it to me, a cutlass style blade. I had a feeling it was an old Collins when I saw the well shaped weathered oak handle and was pleased to see the stamp when I cleaned it up, figure it to be over 60 years old. Good steel it has, all nice and sharpened now but has yet to see any use as the only thing to really use it on around my place is stinging nettles and that tends to get messy, rather a weed-wacker. For a bit of trivia Collins Company started in Collinsville Conneticut in 1820 and up until the 50's when punching rolled stock and grinding became the industrial norm, their machetes were forged steel and very high quality. They were shipped all around the world and as far as I know not uncommon finds (the vintage ones are becoming sought after collectables, I'd imagine those from the late 1800' or earlier 1900's commanding fairly high prices (like 100$ isn't out of line I think)), the best ones have a rippled surface (much like a blood groove in principal) to break suction. They are still around and inexpensive (under 20$US for the 24") I believe they make an 18" & 24" but I have no idea of the quality of the modern ones though. The Collins factory in Conneticut was abandoned in 1966 and I haven't researched further as yet to what became of them.

    Here is a story about machetes, in particular regard to Collins', an interesting read for you sharp tool buffs. http://www.junglesnafus.com/chapter6.htm

    Here in an interesting article about the history of machetes and so forth, differences, uses, etc., another good read for those interested. http://therionarms.com/articles/cutacha/index.html

    Kk, so my curious nature kept me going (gah I must be bored) and this is what happened to them. In '66 the machete business was sold to the Stanley Works of New Britain and recently that was sold to a South American company. Where I found this here> http://www.cantonmuseum.org/pages/CollinsCompany.html

    :cheers:

    Serge
     
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2007
  17. Koa Man

    Koa Man Kahuna giganticus

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    For palm tree trimming and other uses that one may use a machete for, this one here is my favorite by far. The brand name is Tiger, made in Germany, no longer in production since the fall of the Berlin Wall. I may have the only unused one left in world. I do not intend to ever use this one, I consider it a collector's item. I have one working one left, but the blade is starting to get worn out from sharpening.
     
  18. Monkeyhanger

    Monkeyhanger AboristSite Guru

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  19. M.D. Vaden

    M.D. Vaden Addicted to ArboristSite

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    I forget the name of the blade I had, but it was something I found at a gun and knife show. It had a kind of weapon look to it; probably originally a fighting style of blade, rather than a brush cutting design.

    The one I had, was a thick stainless steel and hit like a hatchet.

    More of a curved design, than straight.

    Wish I kept it.
     
  20. Marc1

    Marc1 ArboristSite Member

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    Collins is a good machete, just don't fall for the very long ones, they are not necessarily better and they tend to vibrate a lot in your hand when you hit something solid. First thing you do is rip the plastic handle off and make a nice wooden one. If you use it a lot, wind some strips of old soft cotton rags around it.
    If you can find an old one you hit the jackpot. try e-bay

    The square ended machete are designed for cane cutting and they do that job well, however for light brush cutting , small branches etc they are a bit too stiff for me. I like the 18" 20" Collins like this one: www.usmilitarysurplus.com/surpluscatalog/product_info.php?cPath=69_39&products_id=825
    Something that makes a nice sound when cutting.

    A machete can be a nice project to make yourself. Just find a nice piece of good carbon steel and get grinding.
     
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2007

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